Australian teachers campaign against SRI (Special Religious Instruction)

Tonight, I was buoyed to hear of a major push by Australian teachers and academics to lobby for an end to the outdated and divisive ‘Special Religious Instruction/Education’ delivered to students in state schools across the nation.

I really don’t need to do more than reproduce a comment from David Zyngier, Senior Lecturer of Education at Monash University, on “The Conversation”.

If you are a teacher or an academic, may I urge you to contact David to add your name to the following statement. And, as David says, please feel free to circulate the statement widely to your own networks.


Academics are running a campaign to end SRI. If you agree with the following statement please email me [David Zyngier] directly.

If you agree to have your name added please email David Zyngier (Monash University) Feel free to circulate this statement.

Special Religious Instruction –

a statement from the teaching profession

The policy of ‘Special Religious Instruction’ (SRI), )*, currently enacted through differing state Education statutes across Australia, is an outdated and flawed model of segregated, unaccountable and unprofessional religious instruction, which caters to the interests of religious organisations and not the needs of students, teachers, educators or families.

Under the system as it stands:

• State government schools must allow non-teacher volunteers from religious organisations into classrooms to instruct students on a weekly basis and the teaching program must be disrupted for SRI to take place.

• In most Australian states, students who do not participate in SRI are barred from completing any meaningful learning. The NSW ‘Ethics’ alternative is still an unprofessional and segregatory option.

• Schools have no option over whether or not SRI is delivered. School principals and school councils must put the wishes of their communities aside and allow religious volunteers into classrooms each week, irrespective of how many students’ parents elect for them to participate.

• Students are segregated according to religious belief. Such segregation contributes to stereotyping and suspicion of minorities and risks promoting religious exclusion as an accepted norm.

• Respect for religious and cultural diversity is not fostered.

• Valuable class time is taken up to enable the delivery of SRI. Against the backdrop of a crowded curriculum and a new Australian Curriculum that makes no mention of SRI, we argue that this is a waste of students’ precious learning time.

• The separation between church and state – a central tenet of Australia’s democracy – is not upheld under the current model.
This system needs to change and the current legislation must be amended.

The 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians made a clear commitment ‘to nurture an appreciation of and respect for religious diversity’. It is time public education clearly stepped up to that commitment and ended discrimination and segregation in our state schools and focused on promoting cultural diversity instead.

In place of current SRI legislation, we believe that the general approach to values and ethics education currently taught by university prepared and accredited teachers in schools already promotes both social inclusion and intercultural understanding that will best meet the needs of all children and families. Families are in the best position to provide specific religious education and guidance of and for their children either in the home or through special after school organisations.

The secular principle in public education is and remains an indispensible foundation of public education. As stated in the Education Act (2006) guiding principles, the Government will “provide a secular education and will not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect”. [1]

Australian government school students are participating in an outdated model of SRI, which presents children with a singular, and in many cases, an exclusivist faith perspective, that is at odds with Australian state and federal governments’ commitment to promoting a socially inclusive society. The Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union has called for the removal of SRI in a special resolution, arguing that it should occur only outside school hours and be provided on a voluntary basis. [2]

We the undersigned call on the Australian Council of Deans of Education to demonstrate leadership on this important education issue by supporting the secular principle and the removal of the exceptions legislated in support of SRI in our schools today.

[1] Principles underlying the government education and training system 1.2.2 p. 13
* Some states refer to ‘SRI’ as Special Religious Education (SRE).

If you agree to have your name added please email David Zyngier (Monash University)

Feel free to circulate this statement

5 thoughts on “Australian teachers campaign against SRI (Special Religious Instruction)

  1. Abbie Noiraude

    Could we, the citizenry of Australia, please be accepted onto the list of names who are concerned for our Secular status of our State schools?

  2. Julia

    I concur with Abbie Noiraude…please accept signatures from concerned people outside of academia; or have a second petition that includes such persons which could be presented together with this one.
    I personally do not have a problem with religion being taught (properly) in the classroom, just as long as ALL religions are studied and not just one branch of one religion pushed by well-meaning poorly trained amateurs with their own agenda.

  3. Veronique

    Done. I am an old academic and teacher from Australia now in Scotland. I have emailed David Zyngier.

    I doubt whether academia is an actual criterion, so everyone should email David and request inclusion in the list of signatories being compiled.

    The last ditch desperate attempt by organised religion to further infiltrate the state education systems has to be resisted by whatever means available. Constancy, vigilance and organisation is the only truly effective way to tackle the moneyed religions.

    They have the dosh. Disallow the state education system to augment the religious coffers. Argue to disallow the tax preferences given to the religious organisations and their ‘charities’.

    I know I come across as sounding strong. That is what is needed to stop this canker from spreading further.


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